• Feeds

real quick

Wow!  I am sore from the GRAVITY class last night!!  Just a quick post to tell you my boring eats for the morning and afternoon. 🙂  I have been pumping up my lunches with lots of leftovers, which has been great.  I was getting sick of eating the same old salad everyday.  Change is good!

I had a great run at the gym this morning, but was very hungry when I got home.  After cleaning up a bit and prepping for girls’ night tonight, I made myself a big glass of juice.

Juice Mix

  • 4 celery stalks
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 apples
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • hunk of ginger

My juice was spicy today!  Lesson learned – don’t add too much ginger.

I also have a Cinnamon Raisin Vitatop with Nuttzo.

This kind was pretty good.  I do like the Vitatops that I have been trying out, and the ingredients that they use are great, but I don’t love them.  My favorites are the Apple Bran and Banana Nut.  The Cinnamon Raisin was good with big raisins throughout, but it was better spread with Nuttzo!

I snacked on a banana mid-morning, and then was more that ready for lunch when it came around.

Lunch consisted of another salad that I threw together this morning with a lot of leftovers hanging out in the fridge.  It consisted of romaine, chickpeas, carrot falafel, cucumber, somersaults and tangy tahini dressing.  It is such a big help to wash, dry and store your lettuce when you buy it.  It makes it easy to make a quick and healthy lunch.  You could even store the lettuce in individual bowls to grab and go in the morning!

Along with a side of parsnip fries, which were still great from last night.

They were especially delicious dipped in the extra tangy tahini dressing!

Almost time to hit the road and get cookin’ for a little girls night dinner tonight.  I recently picked up Veganomicon and found a delicious recipe to make from there.  I hope they like it. 🙂

healthy lap of the week – should you buy organic?

Healthy Lap of the Week – Should You Buy Organic?

This is a question that seems to come up a lot these days, and sometimes people just don’t know what to do.  Everyone has their own opinion on the subject, but below are my thoughts on the subject.

(Source)

What is organic? Organic fruits and vegetables are grown with natural fertilizers like mulch, and compost. The farmers rotate crops to reduce pests and disease and they also weed the fields by hand. This ensures that the food is all natural without any chemicals.  When it comes to animals, they must be reared without the routine use of antibiotics and growth hormones and fed a diet of organic foods.

Organic products are often a lot more expensive because of the care that organic farmers give to their animals, fruits and vegetables.  Becoming a certified organic farmer is a long, expensive process, so many farmers just don’t have the time or money to go through with it.  But, that does not mean that their products are not technically organic, since they do not use any chemicals and/or antibiotics.

(Source)

I always buy organic meat, eggs and dairy.  I feel better when I buy them because I know that the animals were treated better, and I know that the products that I am buying do not contain traces of antibiotics.  You have probably noticed that I do not eat a lot of meat, eggs or milk for similar reasons.

As for produce, I always try to buy local.  In the spring, summer and fall, I visit farmers markets as often as possible (and this year, we joined a local CSA), and ask the farmers how they grow their produce.  Usually, since they are small farms, they care for their fruits and vegetables and do not use chemicals on anything!  Just because they do not have a certified organic label, does not mean that they do not obide by the organic ‘rules’.  Make sure you ask around.

Winter months make it harder.  In the Northeast, farmers markets are hard to come by, therefore, I find myself at my local markets or Whole Foods.  I usually tend to buy organic at grocery stores because I have no idea where the conventional produce is coming from.  It just makes me and my body feel better.  However, it does get expensive, so when I am tight on cash, I often pick and choose which items I purchase organic, and which I do not.

Below is a list to help you out while grocery shopping.  If grown conventionally, the fruits and vegetables listed below have been found to have high levels of pesticides even after being washed, so these are a priority for buying organic (for me).  Most of them are thin-skinned, making them very susceptible to contamination. Usually, produce with thicker skins retain less pesticide residues. (Source)

  • Peaches and Nectarines: Peaches require a large amount of pesticides to grow conventionally and have extremely delicate skin, making them the top organic fruit pick – with nectarines not far behind.
  • Apples: Apples are the second priority when choosing organic produce, as their pesticide loads consistently test high.
  • Bell Peppers:  Bell peppers are the number one vegetable to buy organic. They have thin skins and are heavily sprayed with insecticides.
  • Celery: Celery lacks a protective outer layer and needs many different chemicals for conventional growth, making it number two on the list of vegetables to buy organic.
  • Strawberries: Strawberries rank high on the organic priority list. They are treated with very large amounts of pesticides, including fungicides. When purchased out-of-season, they probably come from a country with inadequate pesticide regulations.  Ewww!!
  • Cherries: Cherries continually rank high for pesticide contamination.
  • Lettuce and Spinach: Lettuce and spinach are often found to have high levels of various pesticides – sometimes very potent types.
  • Imported Grapes: Imported grapes are likely to have higher pesticide levels than domestic. Vineyards may be sprayed with a number of different pesticides throughout the growing season. Because grapes have a permeable skin, even peeling will not eliminate the residues.
  • Pears: Pears consistently show high levels of pesticides when tested.
  • Potatoes: Potatoes are at high risk for pesticide contamination and may also be affected by chemicals, such as fungicides, in the surrounding soil.
  • So, there you have it!  I found this list on a website awhile back, and have done some other looking about the top foods to purchase organic, but every list out there has these top items on it.  I always purchase these items organic, unless I am at a farmers market, or get produce from a local CSA.

    Have fun shopping!

    parsnips & kumquats

    The day absolutely flew by for me!  I woke up super early to get some work done (it is NOT easy to get up in the dark and pouring rain), and made myself some tea.

    All of a sudden it was time to leave for work, and I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, so I whipped up a quick smoothie for the road.  I was planning for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana smoothie kicked up a notch, and it was definitely good, but not as chocolatey and peanut buttery as I would have liked.

    Regardless, here is the mix:

    • 1 frozen banana
    • 1/2 cup blueberries (for those antioxidants!)
    • 1 cup frozen spinach (no time to wash the fresh stuff!)
    • 1/2 packet Chocolate Amazing Meal
    • 2 tbsp cacao (added at the end for more chocolate taste)
    • 2 tbsp hemp protein powder
    • 1 tbsp ground flaxmeal
    • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
    • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
    • 1.5 cups almond milk

    Wow, that is a lot of ingredients!  But, while I am making it, it doesn’t feel like a lot.  I just throw in some of this and some of that.  I drank this baby on-the-go!

    Lunch came quick, even though I didn’t eat until about 1:30pm.  I made up a salad with veggies and leftovers.

    Salad with romaine, cucumbers, carrot falafel, kumquats (!!) and tangy tahini dressing.

    With a side of leftover brussel sprouts – amazing the next day. 🙂  And, a juicy pear.

    Have you ever had kumquats?  I had not ever tried them – until today.  I bought them on a whim at Trader Joes this past weekend because I see them there all the time and am always intrigued.  I figured, why not give it a shot?  I was skeptical because you just eat the whole mini kumquat at once (well, I cut them in half to remove the seeds first).

    Kumquats look like mini oranges, with an edible rind.  They are small, typically the size of a grape, and have a super tangy and tart flavor.  I loved them!  They are definitely more tart than sweet, but a good tart, not a pucker-up tart.  They worked great in my salad, and I can see them being delicious on top of sauteed spinach – yummy.  They are a winter fruit, like an orange and are typically grown from mid-November to mid-March, so I guess I tried them just at the end of the season.  Give them a try sometime, and let me know what you think!

    Due to my study session this morning, I moved my workout to after work.  I attended a GRAVITY class at Healthworks in Brookline, which was absolutely amazing!  It is basically a kicked up version of Bowflex (you know, from those infomercials?), but so much better.

    They have small classes where each person is on their own GRAVITY machine (above) and the instructor tells you which movements to make.  It was an awesome total body, strength training workout in 50 minutes.

    After GRAVITY, I jumped on the treadmill for a quick 4.5 mile run.  Once I was done, I was starving, so I headed home for dinner where my husband had some parsnip fries in the oven!

    Parsnips are also new to me!  I guess I was feeling like I needed new fruits and veggies in my life this week.  A parsnip is a root vegetable, similar to a carrot.  It basically looks like a white carrot.  They are very high in fiber and folic acid.

    I decided to make these into ‘fries’, so I peeled and chopped them up.

    I chopped these up last night, knowing that I would be home later tonight and would want to just pop them into the oven.

    Tonight, Brant coated them with olive oil, salt, pepper and some spicy essence and placed them on a cookie sheet to bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.  They came out browned and crispy.

    The rest of dinner was kept simple.  I ate my parsnip fries dipped in ketchup with a Dr. Praeger’s veggie burger sandwich with hummus and a laughing cow wedge and a side of lightly wilted spinach.

    Another simple and delicious meal!  Phew – it has been a long day.  Goodnight!

    a randomly delicious meal

    I made a delicious dinner last night, but then we were up way to late doing our taxes for me to post!  It was a lot of random stuff basically thrown together, but the combination worked out perfectly.  I starred into the fridge trying to figure out what to make and came out with Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potatoes, and Heirloom Grape Tomatoes – here’s what I came up with for a dinner for two!

    First up, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts, Dried Cranberries & Gorgonzola.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 pound Brussels Sprouts, washed, trimmed and quartered
    • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
    • 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola
    • olive oil
    • salt & pepper

    I chopped up my brussels sprouts and walnuts and combined them in a baking dish with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  I used just enough olive oil to coat each brussels sprout, and adjusted the salt and pepper while serving.

    I then baked the dish at 350°F for 35 minutes, stirring once halfway through to brown all of the brussels sprouts.  After 35 minutes, I took out the dish and mixed in the dried cranberries, then sprinkled the crumbled gorgonzola on top.  Back into the oven for 10 minutes to melt the cheese and brown the top of the dish.

    This random combination of flavors came out perfect!  It was so delicious.

    Next up, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Thyme.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used heirloom)
    • drizzle of olive oil
    • salt and pepper
    • dried thyme

    I learned a great new trick while watching Rachel Ray the other day at the gym for how to make roasted cherry tomatoes.  I love roasted tomatoes, and have made them before, but they do come out a little soggy on the bottoms.  Well, Rachel Ray had a great tip – squeeze out the seeds before cooking them and bake them on a cooling rack on a cookie sheet.  Brilliant!

    By squeezing out the seeds and cooking them raised above the cookie sheet, they cook much faster and come out a little crisp.  We loved them.

    I baked them in the same oven as the brussels sprouts at 350°F for about 30 minutes.

    After about 30 minutes (make sure you watch them, as larger the size of the tomato will determine cooking time), they came out shriveled and crisp on top, but still soft and sweet to eat.

    Brown Rice with Lemon, Salt & Pepper

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup rice
    • juice of 1/2 lemon
    • lemon peel from 1 lemon
    • salt and pepper

    While the brussels sprouts and tomatoes were roasting away in the oven, I popped some brown rice into my rice cooker to serve alongside the veggies.  Once the rice was cooked, I added the juice of 1/2 lemon, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste.  This rice was a mix from Trader Joes, so it had chopped carrots, peas, etc in it, but you could replace that with any rice or a grain.  I topped the rice with the Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes.

    Lastly, Sweet Potato with Cinnamon & Coconut Butter.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 large sweet potato (or 2 small)
    • 1/2 tbsp coconut butter
    • sprinkle of cinnamon

    Once the brussels sprouts went back into the oven to melt the cheese, I popped my sweet potato in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel (and with holes poked in the top!) for 7 minutes on high.  Time will vary depending on size of potato and your microwave.  You could also bake the sweet potato in the oven, but I decided on the potato last minute!

    After cooking it, I let it sit for a few minutes, then cut it in half and sprinkled it with cinnamon and coconut butter.  The coconut butter melted into the hot potato and the flavors together were delicious!

    This was a delicious, well-balanced meal!  I love dinners like this that come together easily and completely randomly, but still taste awesome.  Hope you enjoy!

    crunchy carrots

    It’s raining again?!  What is going on?  I thought it was April showers…

    I wanted some of everything for breakfast this morning.  Does this happen to anyone else?  Sometimes, when I am that hungry, I end up eating random bites of things straight out of the cabinet or fridge.  But, I have been trying not to do that lately.  Even though my random bites from the cabinet are not unhealthy (because I really don’t buy items with artificial ingredients and the like), they do not make me feel satisfied.

    Eventually, after searching, I decided on a big glass of fresh-squeezed juice and manna bread with almond butter and banana.

    In the juice mix:

    • 1 apple
    • 2 carrots
    • pineapple
    • 3 celery stalks
    • ginger
    • 1/2 cucumber

    I loved the cucumber!  I could really taste it, and it made the juice very refreshing, which would be perfect for the summer!

    Served along with some manna bread, almond butter and banana.  I love juice with breakfast, but I also like something to chew (and some fat for satiety).

    Carrots

    You have probably noticed that I add carrots to almost every juice that I make.  Well, I really enjoy the taste of carrots, but I don’t love eating them.  It may be weird…but, it’s just something about eating carrots that I don’t like – I can’t explain it.  But, carrots have so many beneficial nutrients (and I like the taste), that I am able to add to my diet by adding them to my juices.  I normally try to make juice a few times each week.

    (Source)

    Carrots do contain a good amount of sugar, but because it is natural sugar and has a high carotenoid content, it actually helps balance blood sugar.  They provide an excellent source of vitamins, including A, C, D, E, K, B1 and B6.  Carrots have a high amount of antioxidant compounds which help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision.  And, are also very rich in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.  As we know from my post about the benefits of chocolate, over 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium.  We need magnesium for heart health, muscle relaxation and to increase our brainpower.  So, if you don’t like chocolate (?!), then eat your carrots!

    Enough about carrots!  It’s time for lunch.

    I made up a delicious salad to bring with me today with a little of everything from my fridge.  Salad with romaine, cucumbers, heirloom cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and apricot stilton with pear infused viniagrette.

    My home-cooked chickpeas are pretty good!

    Along with my salad, I had a side of Cheese-y Quackers that I picked up from One Lucky Duck in NYC.

    Cheese-y Quackers are raw crackers made with organic almonds, organic flax, organic nutritional yeast, organic spices and organic sea salt.  Can’t get much healthier than that!

    And, they tasted great.  They were just as crispy as crackers could be, and had a great cheese-y taste.  They tasted very rich, which meant that I only needed a few!  Definitely a perfect replacement for me.

    It is so gross out, and it looks like we have a few more rainy days in the future.  It’s a perfect day to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of tea…too bad I’m headed back to work!

    chickpeas!

    The theme for our potluck dinner tonight was “On a stick” because apparently it is National On a Stick Day? 🙂  Just a fun fact for ya!

    To keep in the theme, we made some salads-on-a-stick to contribute to our dinner.  We enjoyed kebabs and salad for dinner, and fruit kebabs, fruit pops and chocolate pretzel rods for dessert.

    We decided to make 2 different ‘salads’.  First up, Caprese Salad (on-a-stick, of course).  I bought cherry tomatoes and mini mozzarella balls to keep things simple.

    Next, I made a Pear Gorgonzola Salad (on-a-stick).

    I envisioned them to look like those, but unfortunately the cheese was so crumbly!  I don’t normally buy gorgonzola, so I didn’t realize this was going to happen.  But, I made due with a cheese/tomato/pear plate with toothpicks to make your own salad-on-a-stick.  This was a delicious combo!

    I used heirloom cherry tomatoes, which were delicious!

    We had a great dinner!

    Chickpeas!

    I have been meaning to try to cook my own beans for awhile now.  I love beans, especially garbanzos (chickpeas), and hate that canned beans contain so much salt.  Buying dry beans and cooking them myself would mean much less salt, and it would be much cheaper.  I like to add some beans to my salads at lunch in order to get in protein.  By cooking a huge batch of beans, I could store some in the freezer to have whenever I want them.  So, this weekend I set out to cook my beans!

    Chickpeas are a great source of protein, iron and cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans.  In addition to lowering cholesterol, chickpeas high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal which increases your energy levels.  Pair your chickpeas with a grain (such as quinoa) and you have yourself a complete protein meal.

    I bought about 6 cups of dried beans from the bulk bins at my local heath food store.  Last night, I put them into covered jars filled with water and soaked them overnight (about 8-10 hours).

    Why should you soak the beans before cooking them?  Well, for one – they will cook faster!  But, there are also other benefits as well.  By soaking the beans, you make them much easier for your body to digest.  It helps to break down all the complex sugars in beans, sush as the indigestible oligosaccharides.  Soaked beans are also more likely to retain their maximum nutritional value, mostly due to the shortened time required for cooking. Basically, the longer you have to cook your beans, the less nutritional value will be retained since many vitamins and minerals are lost with added heat.  So, definitely take the time to soak your beans first (FYI – the same goes with nuts)!

    This morning, after my beans had soaked for a good 10 hours, I found that they had expanded to almost twice their dry size.  Make sure you leave room in your soaking jar or dish for this!

    I dumped the soaked beans into a strainer to rinse with fresh water before cooking.  I read that you should never cook your beans in the water that you soak them in – I’m not sure why, but I chose to listen to the advice out there!

    Then, I dumped the rinsed beans into my crockpot.

    I filled the pot with water, so that it was about 2 inches above the beans, turned the crockpot on low for 6 hours and went on with my business for the day. 🙂

    I checked the beans throughout the 6 hours, probably 2 or 3 times because this was my first time doing this and I did not want to overcook them.  But, I found that 6 hours was the perfect amount of time.

    So, I dumped them into the strainer again and rinsed with cold, fresh water.  Then let sit for 15 minutes to dry.

    I put some of the beans, that I will eat this week into containers in the fridge.  The others I wanted to freeze, so I dumped them in a single layer onto 2 baking sheets and placed them in the freezer until frozen.  This way they won’t all clump together and I can easily use them in batches from the freezer.

    Once frozen, I checked them a few hours after I had put them in the freezer, I dumped the beans into a glass jar for storing.

    This may seem like a long, time-consuming process, but it honestly took about 10 minutes of my time to make a huge batch of beans from scratch.  I basically dumped the beans into soaking jars, then dumped them into the crockpot, then put them in jars for storing – and they will last me weeks (at the very least)!!  It is totally worth it to have homemade, cheap, salt-free beans at your disposal whenever you want them.  Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!  I plan to cook some black beans that I bought fairly soon.

    Have you ever cooked your own beans?  Or do you prefer the convenience of canned beans? As you can see from my experiment, home-cooked beans seem to be extremely convenient as well!

    smoothie in a bowl

    Happy Sunday! 🙂

    I was feeling very productive this morning doing my work, so I decided to hold off on my workout until the afternoon.  Mid-morning, I was finally ready for a break for some breakfast.  I was famished at this point, so I made up a big bowl of oatmeal/oatbran.  See, some days, I just crave a solid bowl of oatmeal!

    In my mix this morning went:

    • 1/4 cup rolled oats
    • 1/4 cup oat bran (I am liking this combo of rolled oats/oatbran)
    • 1 huge banana
    • 1 tbsp ground flax
    • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 cup almond milk

    YUM!  As always, it was delicious and very filling.  In fact, It kept me full for a really long time.

    While I was making this delicious bowl of oats for myself, Brant was working on his own creation.

    Check out his omelet!  Yup, I was a little jealous when I saw that!

    Anyways, while I finished up my work, I put some pineapple into the dehydrator to make my dried pineapple stash for the week.  Doesn’t it look good?!

    In 12-14 hours I will have a delicious dried pineapple snack for the week.

    Before my workout, I snacked on a granola bar and an orange to hold me over until my late lunch.  I tried this 18 Rabbits bar that I was sent to sample.

    It was delicious.  See my review of other flavors here.  I loved the big chunks of figs and cherries.

    At the gym, I decided to take it easy and do 45 minutes on the elliptical and 10 on the stepper.  My legs and body were a bit sore from yesterday’s weight session, so I want to let my body recover.

    Once home, I knew that I needed some protein for my muscle recovery, and some greens for nutrients.  The last thing I felt like was a salad, so instead I made a thick, creamy Smoothie in a Bowl which I had seen on Kath’s blog!

    In my SIAB mix:

    • 1/2 cup almond milk
    • 2 huge handfuls spinach
    • 1/2 banana
    • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
    • 1/2 packet Chocolate Amazing Meal (you could substitute any protein powder here)
    • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
    • 1 tbsp ground flax
    • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds

    Blended in the blender until thick and creamy.  For a normal smoothie I would have added more water or milk, but I wanted to eat this with a spoon.

    Perfect for muscle recovery and staying power!  You have probably noticed that I love smoothies by reading my blog, and it’s true!  What I love most about them is that you can basically put anything that you want into a blender and have a super nutritious, quick and portable meal in a matter of seconds.  They are perfect for a meal replacement if you make it dense enough (because sometimes, like today, my smoothie was basically a salad blended up!), or for a quick protein replacement after a tough workout.  I keep frozen fruit and spinach in my freezer all the time, and a tub of hemp protein powder in the fridge for quick and easy smoothies when I am running out the door and don’t have time to think about or prepare a meal.  They really are perfect. 🙂

    I used a ton of fresh spinach in this baby!

    Once blended, I added some crunchy granola on top.  I loved the crunch.  Eating this smoothie with a spoon, tricked my mind into thinking that this was a larger meal, I think.  Funny how the mind works.

    I also had a slice of toast with Chocolate Coconut Butter and Raspberry Jam.

    A delicious late afternoon lunch!

    We are off to a fun potluck tonight – off to make my dish. 🙂